One person’s trash…

…another person’s treasures.

trash

You’d be amazed by what kind of things people throw away in this country. Perfectly usable things, often without a single scratch or easily repaired. The things in the picture above are some of what we have found standing in the recycling-area in our block lately. We found two identical small shelves that needed some re-painting, but now serve as our night-tables. The cute heart-shaped bowls are perfectly fine, and the glass one just has some minor scratches. Except the things in the picture we have found small storage boxes, a bag, a big vase etc. Not to mention all the things we’ve seen but not taken, since we just don’t have space, or use, for them.

All of this just lying around in the recycle area, considered trash by someone else. I love finding these things – even though I don’t dig around in containers looking for them – but I also feel sad about how much useful stuff people throw away. Stuff that someone else could use and love, so why not give it away? To a friend, a family member, or if you don’t know anyone who wants it, to a second-hand store. Here in Helsinki there are many second-hand stores that accept donations, bigger things like furniture they will even come and get from your home for free, and sometimes they fix things that are not in tip-top shape. Still people keep on throwing away things.

Are we just lazy? Or don’t we care? Do we have so much material things that they have totally lost their value?

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Winter is coming

You could almost say that winter has arrived in Helsinki today. When I looked outside our bedroom window this morning, some parts of the ground were covered in a thin layer of snow.

winter

Somehow winter comes as a shock to me every year, it always seems like it gets too cold and too dark, way too early. Needless to say, I’m not a winter person and if I could I would escape the country in November every year and come back in May. I admit it looks beautiful a cold, mid-winter day when all nature is covered with snow, but I just can’t stand the cold.

Anyways, with many layers of clothes, some extra blankets and a lot of hot chocolate I guess I will survive winter this year as well.

Permaculture

I’ve been interested in studying permaculture for quite some time now, so recently I started an online course to learn at least the basics of permaculture farming and design.

Permaculture is a way of farming together with nature, as opposed to against it, which is what modern agriculture does. Permaculture uses the functions and ways of nature to make farming as productive and easy as possible in the long run. Some fundamentals of this type of farming include; polyculture instead of monoculture, use of natural resources (such as sunlight, wind and plants), not depleting the soil by for example plowing, and focusing on the long-term effects and benefits as opposed to only the annual produce and short-term benefits.

This type of farming demands a new way of thinking; about farming, about building and about our way of life. However, it’s a way of rehabilitating the nature that we have destroyed through our human activity – a way of fixing where we might have thought hope was lost. This is what amazes me about permaculture; that we can use nature to fix those things I thought were unfixable, we just have to follow the flow of nature, helping it in the direction it would go anyway, instead of trying to control it.

After some lectures I now feel the desire – like an itch in my fingers – to get out there, plan a garden and make it grow.

A dream about self-sufficiency

One of my big dreams is to one day live on a small farm and grow my own food to the extent it’s possible, not having to go to the supermarket to decide between fruits, veggies and other food-stuffs you actually don’t really know where they come from, what they have been through and what kind of life the workers that handled them are living.

It’s a big dream, because I’m not that good in growing plants, and certainly not in preserving them, and we live in a country with long, cold winters. It would also mean a new way of relating to food, cooking mainly from what you have instead of buying exactly what you want from the store. Still I’m hoping that it will be possible some day.

I have it all in my head; an old small house that we have renovated and made more energy sufficient, a yard with fruit trees and berry bushes, a small greenhouse, vegetable plantations, a small barn and possibly some rescue animals. No sounds except the ones of nature, of the animals, of family and friends. No smell of pollution, just the smell of grass, flowers and home-made bread. Heaven.

Time for a change: the Living Planet Report

I’ve recently read through the summary of this year’s Living Planet Report – an annual report published by the WWF, which documents the state of our planet. It’s not pleasant reading, mentioning among other things that;

  • the number of animals we share our planet with has fallen by half since 1970
  • to keep our standard of living, we would need the regenerative capacity of 1.5 planets
  • the low-income countries have the smallest ecological footprints, but suffer the biggest losses in biodiversity
  • climate change and the depletion of ecosystems will leave even more people suffering from hunger, living without clean water or a reliable electricity supply

Reports like this one screams for change. To change our way of living is not just an option, it’s mandatory. The situation is not yet hopeless, but demands immediate action, from the leaders of our nations, from companies, and from us as ordinary citizens.

“We need leadership for change. Sitting on the bench waiting for someone else to make the first move doesn’t work. Heads of state need to start thinking globally; businesses and consumers need to stop behaving as if we live in a limitless world.”

– Marco Lambertini, WWF International

Cleaning Day

Yesterday was Siivouspäivä, in English “Cleaning Day”. It’s a celebration day for second hand stuff, recycling and urban culture which is held twice a year, once in May and once in August. On this day anyone can sell or give away their old things pretty much anywhere (in most Finnish cities) as long as they register their spot on the Siivouspäivä website and follow some general rules.

Siivouspäivä

I love the idea of this event. It’s a good way to make people recycle more instead of throwing away stuff, because it doesn’t cost you anything to sell your things on a day like this, and you don’t need any special permission. Yesterday there were also spots around the city where you could bring broken things for recycling, or give away still usable things to second hand stores or charity – which is great. I also like the fact that the Finnish people get out and actually talk to each other and interact with strangers, which doesn’t exactly happen every day.

I love walking around at these events and looking at what people are selling. It’s one of the reasons why I like going to second hand stores in general. I just love looking at old and used things, because they all have some kind of history. Going to a store full of new things doesn’t give the same feeling at all. The fact that buying stuff second hand is much better for the environment gives still another reason to love second hand stores and recycling events. Everyone wins; someone gets rid of their old stuff and might earn something from it, you get something new, and the environment doesn’t have to pay any price for it.

Tips for consuming less

We consume an enormous amount of things today and it’s so easy to buy things – there are shops all around and online you can easily buy things with just a click. Most of the things we buy we don’t actually need and often we end up just leaving them unused. This is a habit we all need to change, mainly for the sake of the planet, but also for our own health.

I found an “anti-consumption check-list” written in one of my notebooks, and I wanted to share it with you. I know I copied this one from a book or something, but I hadn’t written down the source. Anyways, the original is in Swedish, so this is a free translation with a little changes because I just don’t want to write everything.

When you want to buy something, think about these things first:

1. Do I really have time for this?
Consumption is often time-consuming, and most often you have something better to do with your time.

2. Do I really need this?
Often we think we need something that we actually would be able to do without. When you get the first impulse to buy something, count to ten in your head and then think again if you actually need it.

3. Can it be fixed, borrowed or rented?
Maybe what you would need can be borrowed or rented (books, music, games for example).

4. Can it be found or bought second-hand?
Try finding what you want at a second-hand store. You can also check what other people are throwing away, often there are fully usable things (like furniture for example) in garbage rooms.

5. Is there an organic alternative?
If you really have to buy something, buy fair trade, organic and/or energy-efficient things. If you buy things of good quality they last for many years and you don’t have to constantly buy new ones.

Also remember to not throw things you no longer want in the garbage if they are still usable, trying selling them, giving them to friends or to charity/second-hand stores!